Adaptive traffic lights vs. countdown timers: The MMDA tries to explain the difference

by Drei Laurel | Aug 8, 2022
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Last week, many motorists scratched their heads at the Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) plans to ditch traditional stoplight countdown timers in favor of a fancy new adaptive traffic light system.

The new adaptive system measures a thoroughfare’s vehicle volume and adjusts traffic light operation to suit the traffic situation on the ground. Countdown timers, meanwhile, have a set time regardless of how many cars are waiting on either side of a road or intersection.

In a recent Facebook post, MMDA Task Force Special Operations head Bong Nebrija tried to explain the logic of the agency’s decision to adopt an adaptive traffic light system.

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The traffic official used his own situation as an example, saying he was waiting for a 137-second countdown timer to end even though there were very few vehicles crossing the intersection. Once his timer ended, however, the heavy volume of traffic on the street he was on only had 15 seconds to cross.

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Yang naka-timer, aantayin nating mag-stop yan kahit wala nang dumadaan dun sa cross street. Yan ang sinasabi namin na pag adaptive traffic system yan, kung wala nang dumadaan doon, ang daming naka-tengga dito, ang tendency niyan is mag-a-adjust yung traffic light,” Nebrija explained to his followers.

Itong 137 [seconds] na to sa Quirino Avenue, pwede yan sa weekday. Pero hindi ina-adjust yan every day. Naka-fix po yan. Nakikita niyo, naka-tengga lahat dito, and then makikita niyo pag nag change light yan, 15 seconds lang. Eh ang laki ng volume dito sa Del Pilar (Street),” the official added.

“Well, timers have their own advantages and disadvantages also, katulad nito.”

Are you satisfied with Nebrija’s explanation? Let us know what you think the MMDA should do in the comments.

MMDA official explains logic behind adaptive traffic lights:

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